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Vishneva's Farewell: A Great Ballerina Leaves ABT
The entire audience cheered as they lifted their iPhones to capture the teary-faced Diana Vishneva's gratitude toward Marcelo Gomes.
Last Friday, the great Russian ballerina said goodbye to American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House. Vishneva and Gomes danced a powerful Onegin, and we didn't want to let them go. During the stream of greetings from her fellow principals that is part of the farewell tradition, Marcelo re-entered the stage, rushing to Vishneva to lift her up and spin her around. She instantly threw her arms open and her head back, as though saying, "I am free when I'm with you."
Vishneva is one of the most treasured ballerinas of our time. Her effect on audiences is spellbinding. As Tatiana in John Cranko's Onegin, she transformed from a shy, cruelly spurned girl to a woman torn by passion. As a young girl with a rich interior life, she moved slowly almost as though under water. As a married woman who suddenly has power over the man she had been hopelessly in love with, she is caught between splintered emotions.
Gomes and Vishneva
Her every step moved the story along. In the first act, her arabesque expressed pining for Onegin; the emboitées were agitation. Her parallel bourrées carried her toward Onegin involuntarily, as though fate were pulling her. Those quick, floating steps expressed the lines of Tatiana's letter to the man she loved. To quote Pushkin, the author of Onegin: "It is ordained by higher powers…It is heaven's will: I am yours."
When Gomes as Onegin slammed his hands on the desk in exasperation, he might as well have ripped her heart from her chest. Reeling from the violent rejection, Vishneva staggered around, utterly lost.
While Vishneva's portrayal of unrequited love was powerful, equally potent was the warmth of her sisterhood toward Olga. After Onegin kills his friend Lensky in a duel, Tatiana is so overcome with sympathy for her sister that she covers Olga with her body, trying to comfort her. Vishneva gives herself, body and soul, to the role.
In the last pas de deux, when Onegin begs the married Tatiana for her love, Vishneva melts in Gomes' embrace, almost willing to carry the weight of his regret. She is like the prow of a ship, tugging the barge that is Onegin. She knows that if she kisses him she will be lost and her happy life with Prince Gremin will be destroyed.
The last act, when Tatiana must resist Onegin
The role of Tatiana is one of the most taxing roles in ballet. As Evan McKie wrote in "Turning into Tatiana," in our March 2009 issue, the ballerina must have "the emotional maturity to make Tatiana's inner conflicts come alive."
Vishneva brings the turmoil of Tatiana's inner life vibrantly alive without ever exaggerating. Her simplest gesture is so true, so connected in mind, body and spirit that we never doubt her deepest feelings. We know what she's thinking, we know why she hesitates. We see her romantic desire in battle against her wiser self. In the last moments her chest is heaving with exhaustion, having banished her real love but knowing she came close to destroying herself, like a moth to a flame.
I think everyone in that audience felt gratitude to Vishneva for giving us a rich experience, brimming with emotion. And she felt gratitude toward Gomes, whom she circled with her arms while lowering herself to the floor in supplication, exactly the way Onegin circles Tatiana in the last act. During the parade of well wishers, the smallest person brought the largest flowers. Irina Kolpakova, revered coach at ABT, handed Vishneva big bright sunflowers. Vishneva bowed down to her, then spontaneously lifted her up.
Vishneva in center. to her left is Gomes, to his left is her coach Irina Kolpakova.
We will miss the ravishing Vishneva in roles like Tatiana, but she will not disappear from the dance world. She will continue to dance lead roles with the Mariinsky Ballet. In her "10 Minutes With" last fall she talked about her plans to expand her festival CONTEXT, which has brought contemporary dance to Moscow and St. Petersburg. To see this world-class ballerina rehearse in the studio, watch this beautiful video from The New Yorker.
"There's an ancient energy in Fana's movement, a deep and trusted knowing," says Jeff, director of the Chicago-based Deeply Rooted Dance Theater. "Because I witnessed the raw humanity of his dancer's souls, I wanted my dancers to have that experience."
Growing up in a family-owned dance studio in Missouri had its perks for tap dancer Anthony Russo. But it also earned him constant taunting, especially in high school.
"There was a junior in my sophomore year health class who was absolutely relentless," he says. "I'd get tripped on my way to the front of the classroom and he'd say, 'Watch out, twinkle toes.' If I raised my hand and answered a question incorrectly, I'd hear a patronizing 'Nice one, Bojangles.' "
When I wrote about my struggle with depression, and eventual departure from dance because of it, I expected criticism. I was prepared to be challenged. But much to my relief, and horror, dancers from all over the world responded with support and stories of solidarity. The most critical response I saw was this one:
"Dance isn't for everyone."
This may as well be a mantra in the dance world. We have become entrenched in the Darwinian notion that the emotionally weak will be weeded out. There is no room for them anyway.
Choreographer Sergio Trujillo asked the women auditioning for ensemble roles in his newest musical to arrive in guys' clothing—"men's suits, or blazers and ties," he says. He wasn't being kinky or whimsical. The entire ensemble of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical is female, playing men and women interchangeably as they unfold the history of the chart-busting, Grammy-winning, indisputable Queen of Disco.
Have a scroll through Agnes Muljadi's Instagram feed (@artsyagnes), and you'll notice that in between her ballet shots is a curated mix of lifestyle pics. So what exactly sets her apart from the other influencers you follow? Muljadi has made a conscious effort to only feature natural beauty products, sustainable fashion and vegan foods. With over 500k followers, her social strategy (and commitment to making ethical choices) is clearly a hit. Ahead, learn why Muljadi switched to a vegan lifestyle, and the surprising way it's helped her dance career.
He may not be a household name, but you probably know Brandon Stirling Baker's work. The 30-year-old has designed the lighting for most of Justin Peck's ballets—including Heatscape for Miami City Ballet, and the edgy The Times Are Racing for New York City Ballet—but also Jamar Roberts' new Members Don't Get Weary at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and a trio of Martha Graham duets for L.A. Dance Project.
He's been fascinated by lighting ever since he attended a public performing arts middle school in Sherman Oaks, California, where he had his first experiences lighting shows. He also has a background in music (he plays guitar and bass) and in drawing. Both, he says, are central to the way he approaches lighting dance.
Update: Due to an overwhelming response, the in-person audition has been moved to a larger location to accommodate more dancers. See details below.
For the first time in more than 10 years, Janet Jackson is holding an open audition for dancers.
Even better? You could land a spot in her #JTribe simply by posting a video on social media.
What does it take to become an international superstar? Carlos Acosta might have a few ideas.
At the Oxford Literary Festival earlier this month, the BBC sat down with Acosta to ask for his life lessons. His answers—which he says he will pass on to his kids one day—give incredible insight into how he's become such a beloved worldwide success.
The ballet world will converge on San Francisco this month for San Francisco Ballet's Unbound: A Festival of New Works, a 17-day event featuring 12 world premieres, a symposium, original dance films and pop-up events.
"Ballet is going through changes," says artistic director Helgi Tomasson. "I thought, What would it be like to bring all these choreographers together in one place? Would I discover some trends in movement, or in how they are thinking?"